What agreement with measures like social distancing and lockdowns really means
Article by Almedina Gunić, Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (RCIT), 20th March 2020, www.thecommunists.net
There is a substance that kills 3 million people per year. It's called alcohol (1). Tobacco leads to the death of 8 million people per year (2). Overconsumption of sugar resulting in diabetes causes 1.5 million deaths per year. In addition 2.2 million people die from negative health impacts caused by higher blood sugar (3). COVID-19 has killed 10,041 people so far. Now, why are there whole industries even making profit by selling substances that are killing nearly 15 million people (alcohol, tobacco and added sugar) every year while a virus which has killed 10,041 people until today should be reason enough to stop social interactions and to accept complete lockdowns?
People who love their drink or cigarette or third piece of cake might argue that they are only a threat to themselves but not to others while a virus is spreading, infecting many people. At least for tobacco this is not true as 1.2 million are killed only because they are exposed to second-hand smoke without being a smoker themselves (4). Furthermore, alcoholism is an illness that is not caused because people have chosen to become an alcoholic (same is true for diabetes and cancer). It is rather a reflection of the addictive character those substances have on human beings. Last but not least, beds in intense care units which are occupied by patients who have been poisoned by the named substances are beds that are not available for other emergencies. However, alcohol, sugar and tobacco play a vital (or rather deadly) part in the life of enough people.
Today, capitalist governments all around the world implement draconic enforcement measures against COVID-19 like general quarantines up to complete lockdowns. They justify this by arguing that they “protect” the people, especially the seriously ill and the elder. Surveillance is used up to forcing people to use specific apps with face-recognition which check the temperature daily and inform the government about results. Drones are flying, police and military forces are mobilized to keep people at home and a large number of borders are closed. All of this happens in combination with mobilizing huge amounts of money from the state treasury in order to provide the multinational corporations and other capitalist companies to cushion the blow of the recession. The ruling classes around the world demand that we all apply “social distancing”, i.e. voluntarily (!) staying away from public places, not gathering in groups, keeping a minimum distance of one meter between each other, and so on.
All of this is a huge mobilization of forces, planned and implemented in an amazingly short period of time, under the motto to counteract the pandemic. We as the Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (RCIT) have dealt with various aspects of COVID-19, demanding the use of medical tests in case of supposed infections, free medical care including quarantines of patients if necessary and rejection of the lockdowns (5). Likewise we explained the real reasons for the economic crisis, which – contrary to the lies of the capitalist governments – has not been caused by the pandemic (6). We opposed all chauvinist reactions and denounced all anti-democratic measures (7) and many more.
Scratch some Communists...
However, there is another important aspect that we need to deal with in this situation. Not only is there a sudden enormous mobilization of forces possible against a virus which is less deadly than broadly advertised substances like alcohol, tobacco and added sugars are. Such huge effort is done because a contagious virus is also threatening the imperialist countries. Our brothers and sisters in the semi-colonial countries are dying by horrible diseases since more than a century. Poverty which was forced on them by imperialist governments and multinational corporations robbing and exploiting them brutally is the basis for one epidemic after the other. This leads to the pervert situation that 4% of worldwide deaths are caused by something as simple as Diarrhoea (8).
Now, the mainstream opinion in the imperialist world is that it is necessary to protect our fellow human beings and that we therefore should voluntarily isolate ourselves and accept every limitation of our democratic rights. 73% of all deaths worldwide are caused by HIV/AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis together with maternal deaths, neonatal deaths and deaths from malnutrition. These are 41 million people every year dying in the semi-colonial world by mostly preventable causes (9). All of this happens to our brothers and sisters in the semi-colonial countries without a single imperialist blinking an eye. But if a contagious, new virus hits the imperialist countries the world shall stop spinning. What a disgusting moral this is!
Revolutionaries who live in imperialist countries have to strongly oppose this bigotry, such double standard of valuing the lives of our brothers and sisters in the semi-colonial world much less than lives in the imperialist world. Otherwise they would be like those about whom the Russian revolutionary Vladimir Ilyich Lenin spoke when he said: “There are the kind of objections of which I have said: Scratch some Communists and you will find Great-Russian chauvinists.”(10)
To socialists in imperialist countries: Even if you are not sure how dangerous COVID-19 might really be in the medical sense, the pandemic contains a danger politically lethal to all revolutionaries...that is social-imperialism. Be aware that this is exactly happening to you, if you obey to the hysteria.
Reject the COVID-19 hysteria and prepare to fight back against austerity measures, against mass layoffs and against attacks on democratic rights! Reject any lockdowns, any forced undemocratic measures, any rules to socially isolate yourself from others as long as you are healthy! Keep a clear head in order to organize a broad solidarity campaign for our brothers and sisters in the semi-colonial countries, who have already been hit hard by so many diseases caused by imperialism and who will suffer heavy from the current pandemic!
The future world revolution will not be possible without our comrades from the semi-colonial countries leading the fight. We cannot allow imperialism to kill any more of our brothers and sisters!
(1) Alcohol, Key facts. World Health Organization (WHO), 21 September 2018, https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/alcohol
(2) Tobacco, Key facts. World Health Organization (WHO), 26 July 2019, https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/tobacco
(3) Diabetes Globally, Diabetes Australia, Publication date unknown, https://www.diabetesaustralia.com.au/diabetes-globally
(4) Tobacco, Key facts. World Health Organization (WHO), 26 July 2019, https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/tobacco
(5) Coronavirus: "I am not a Virus"... but WE will be the Cure! The chauvinist campaign behind the “Wuhan Coronavirus” hysteria and the revolutionary answer Article by Almedina Gunić, Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (RCIT), 02 February 2020, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/global/wuhan-virus/
(6) No, the Corona Virus is not the Main Cause of the Global Economic Slump! Bourgeois Media Officially Recognize the Beginning of another Great Recession by Michael Pröbsting, International Secretary of the Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (RCIT), 3 March 2020, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/global/corona-virus-is-not-the-main-cause-of-global-economic-slump/
(7) 2019 Corona Virus: Oppose the Global Wave of Chauvinist Hysteria! Workers and oppressed: Do not trust the ruling class and its media! A Statement of the Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (RCIT), 5 February 2020, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/global/2019-corona-virus-oppose-the-global-wave-of-chauvinist-hysteria/
(8) What is Diarrhoea and How to Prevent it. Rehydration Project, March 2020, https://rehydrate.org/diarrhoea/
(9) Causes of Death by Hannah Ritchie and Max Roser. Our World in Data, February 2018 (Updated December 2019), https://ourworldindata.org/causes-of-death#what-do-people-die-from
(10) On the Program of the Party (1915), by N. Lenin. The New International, Vol. X No. 7, July 1944, pp. 208–210, https://www.marxists.org/history/etol/newspape/ni/vol10/no07/lenin2.htm